by which I think you mean—you’ll correct me if I’m wrong—that the arts aren’t really, if we get down to it, necessary.
With that, I’m inclined to agree. Neither is penicillin, the pine outside my window, gazpacho in Paris, or my seven-year-old agreeing to sit still as the dentist fills her back molar.
Peeling back that onion: neither are picture frames, all kinds of birds, the redolence of jasmine blooming on the sill, though it may not survive. Bougainvillea: salmons, pinks, reds. The world over, people have lived without eucalyptus, and definitely pecans. (Not sure, though, that I can do without them slightly singed in olive oil, with baby greens.)
Saying more probably isn’t necessary, though I told my children, banging on the door, that it is.
As an educator, I need to get reasonable course evaluations. As a mother, I don’t. My friends say I need to stop feeling guilty about it, but “it” could be so many things.
My family needs to eat. I, too, need to eat. We don’t have a dog, so he doesn’t need to eat. We need me home in time to make dinner. This isn’t always simple: sometimes, someone’s about to start crying. Sometimes my bunion hurts. Unless someone determines that my walking isn’t necessary, surgery will be in order. For any number of difficulties, some people can’t get surgery. Some people are laughed at, mocked for that, on TV, which—hopefully you agree—wasn’t necessary.
Some of us need glasses. The inventor of basketball did. So did Benjamin Franklin. All of us need to believe it’s worth opening our eyes to begin with.
No one needs to pray. And I don’t need to hold my face against my seven-year-old’s just because this is how she prefers to do so. No one needs her to ask me to remind her, every night, “What’s the name of that man in Aleppo you know?”
Though you have a point: how far does the Necessity Onion peel? And if, brushing the scraps from the cutting board into the bin, I absentmindedly touch my eyes, who will get me to the sink?
Neither slow dance, nor, as my sisters and I used to call it, fast dance, are necessary. No perfect pitch, no cleanliness. Certainly not street cats. But once, the neighbors picked one up, umbilical cord attached. It was nearly bald, very ugly. I didn’t need the allergies it’d bring once it grew, or the hours spent searching for someone, anyone, to take it off our hands. But it helped to have my daughter, who set her alarm every two hours, mixed cottage cheese with egg and syringed it into its closed mouth. It helped when she massaged its belly and butthole to make it poop, after which she’d go back to sleep, wake up, and repeat.
Still, you’re right: I’m comparing apples and oranges. One has a thicker skin. One keeps the doctor away, though I’ve heard the other might, too. Admittedly, one is juicier. But onions, too, when cut, leave an unmistakable residue.
Photo via Gaby Altenberger.